With summer comes the warm weather and the bugs. This time of year, vet clinics have lots of furry patients coming in for “lump” removals that are really ticks tightly attached to the pet. Ticks climb long grass and other foliage and wait for animals or people to walk by so they can attach. They can be more than just unpleasant looking – the most common ticks in Western Canada are also potential carriers of the bacteria that cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. People, as well as dogs, can become infected if bit by a tick carrying the bacteria. Signs include fever, swelling of arms, legs, and face, and difficulty breathing.
Lyme disease is another serious disease transmitted by ticks that can affect both people and dogs. Right now the type of tick that carries the disease mainly lives in Eastern Canada, but it’s starting to move west. Veterinarians can send ticks in to a government surveillance program where the tick species is determined. If the ticks are the type that can carry Lyme disease they are tested for the disease. Lyme disease can cause fever, arthritis, kidney disease, and sometimes even heart problems or neurologic problems in both people and dogs.
To help prevent your pet from getting bit treat him with a tick medication, such as Advantix, before going camping or in areas with long grass – and you should wear long sleeves!
Another question we commonly get is how to protect pets against mosquitoes. A product called Defend, which is available at most vet clinics, protects pets for 30 days against mosquitoes. An option for short term protection is to wipe Skin-so-soft bug spray on your pet with a cloth.
Remember your pets can get sunburned, especially white dogs with short hair or any dog that has just gotten a very short haircut. You can either put protective sun shirt on your dog or use children’s sun block – just make sure the sunblock is zinc free.
Julie Woodward, DVM
Animal Care Centre of Strathmore